Since the last federal COVID-19 eviction moratorium ended about six weeks ago, evictions generally have not reached their own epidemic proportions in Florida, as many legal aid officials had feared.
“Generally, we’re not at the level we were at before the pandemic,” said Sean Rowley, advocacy director of the Tenant Rights Unit at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. “I suspect that probably the major reason why you have not seen the huge spike that a lot of people expected is ERAP (the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program) is still a resource that a lot of people are using.” “The filings are still not to pre-pandemic levels, and I would imagine the ERAP programs are assisting with that,” said Jim Kowalski, executive director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. “Locally, our United Way has been managing ERAP, and some of the smaller counties like St. Johns and Clay are very quick with ERAP funds approvals and getting money out to the landlords.”
“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” said Robin Stover, deputy director for housing programs at Gulf Coast Legal Services, which serves Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. “When the pandemic hit a year and a half ago, people were frozen with terror. Businesses closed and people were laid off; their jobs disappeared.